Black Women Writers @ Southwestern University

An English / Feminist Studies / Race & Ethnicity Studies Course Blog

representations of love in “Salvage the Bones”


~spoilers for the last three chapters of the novel are in this post~

I’ve been thinking a lot about the idea of love and how it is represented in this novel, and as I finished the book, I felt love strongly between some of the characters. Even between Esch and her dad, in the scene when he pushes Esch from the tree and in every moment they’re together afterwards, there’s a strong feeling between them. At least in my reading, I felt this as sorrow and shame, as her father’s shame for letting things go unnoticed, for not being present enough. And later, when he tells Esch that they need to find out how long it’s been and make sure everything is okay, I felt a strong sense of love and care, of trying to atone for the past and of concern for his daughter’s well being.

I also felt an extremely powerful sense of love in the scene between Esch and Big Henry, after the hurricane. Big Henry asks who the daddy of Esch’s baby is and she says it doesn’t have one, to which he replies “This baby got plenty of daddies.” In this statement, Big Henry is acknowledging how much he and Esch’s brothers care for her. It may not always look like what we think of as obvious representations of love, with kisses and hugs and the words “I love you”, but it is there. There is a bond between all of them, made obvious by the circumstances they find themselves in, and the way they hold onto each other for foundation. Big Henry tells Esch, “Don’t forget you always got me.” He is the only one of the guys who has not forced himself on to Esch or made any sexual intentions known, but still he tells her that he will always be around for her, and that in itself is love.


2 thoughts on “representations of love in “Salvage the Bones”

  1. agreed. I loved seeing this change in the book. Finally a minuscule bit of hope in such a tragic situation. I think its great to see this counter narrative of an entire family of Black men standing in as father figures, supporting the teen mother.

  2. I, too, was in sorrowful reflection at this part of the novel, relieved as Big Henry stepped up to a position he didn’t inherit. I think too, it gives a different demonstration of love that is far from sexual and much closer to being taken care of. I heard someone wise once say, “what is love but being cared for and caring for the other right back?”

    Paralleling how Skeetah cares for China with this concept of love, I couldn’t agree more. To experience love is to experience care, and I love how Ward left the story here, unfinished in its narrative yet still feeling complete. Perhaps that feeling is due to the idea of love, and the way in which love encompasses the story.

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